Disregard the heading. Sydney-based comic Jennifer Wong definitely has a spine. She also has a mouth and extremely malleable cheeks, which her show could not run without. You see, Jennifer Wong’s show is like taking a breath of fresh air just after an oval of grass has been mowed – uncomfortable for the unfortunate allergic population but wildly refreshing and bracing for everyone else.
Spineless takes you back to old school stand-up; there were no projectors, no significant lighting and no spontaneous dancing that some stand-ups like to do when they run out of material. It was just Jennifer, a microphone and black curtain backdrop in a cosy ad-hoc room at The Portland Hotel. The show centres on Wong’s fascination with literature and language, drawing insightful parallels between her native tongue of English and her not-so-perfect attempts at Cantonese and Mandarin.
Although softly spoken, Jennifer is the loud voice of reason, depicting the clashes of culture and difficulties second-generation Chinese-Australians face as our nation’s relationship with China grows, in terms of business, culture and language. Yet, despite some serious undertones, she still delivers her material with quick wit, plenty of puns and charisma.
When it comes to delivery, there’s no doubt about it: Jennifer Wong is seriously awkward and it works. I interviewed Jennifer after the show and told her I loved her style which, naturally, she felt awkward about. She did say that although she wishes she was more “polished like other stand-ups”, and likes to think of her comedy as “more observational and quirky…than material, punchline, material, punchline”. It is not too often that you hear of young comics finding their voice and style after only two Comedy Festival shows, but Jennifer has found definitely hers – as weird, quirky and awkward as it may be.
A brilliant indicator about the quality of any show is to take a person who hates comedy and hates laughing. No, not the Grinch – my own darling mother. Guess what? She chuckled all the way through and even said at the end, “I really enjoyed that.”
If that ain’t going to convert you, then I don’t know what will.
Jennifer Wong’s show Spineless is at The Portland Hotel Room from March 28– April 21 (except Mondays). For more info and to book tickets (from $15-$22) check out www.jenniferwong.com.au